What is it about?

In this study, we investigated how people feel when they switch off their mobile devices on holiday. We asked our participants to dig​itally disconnect when travelling and reported their feelings. We found participants suffered from 'withdrawal symptoms' at the initial stage of disconnecting with feelings of anxiety, boredom, and frustrations. After they passed the initial stage, many participants started to enjoy their holiday by engaging more with the environment, having more social interactions with locals and their companions. Many reported the digital detox gave them a very memorable and satisfying experience. We also found that the nature of the destination, the travel companions, level of technology dependence, and social/work commitments highly influence the emotions during the digital-free holiday.

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Why is it important?

Digital health has become an important topic as many of us are suffering from unbalanced lifestyles from the ubiquitous connectivity. Digital detox has been proposed and promoted as a solution by operators and media, but many of us are not sure if they can really travel digital-free. This is the first article provides empirical insights into how individuals feel when they are digitally disconnected. By understanding the emotional journey, individuals can be more prepared when they are planning for a digital detox trip to maximise the benefits, while the providers can design and promote their product and service better to cater consumers' demands.

Perspectives

I always found it interesting that many people are so occupied and distracted by their mobile phones on holiday and pay little attention to the wonderful beautiful surroundings and their companions. And I think, what if we leave our mobile devices at home, will our travel experience be better? But we also need to consider we rely on the digital technology a lot on holiday: managing the bookings, navigations, reporting your safeties, sharing photos on social media, and finding highly rated restaurants etc. Can we manage a holiday like this? What will be the experience like?

Dr Wenjie Cai
University of Greenwich

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This page is a summary of: Turning It Off: Emotions in Digital-Free Travel, Journal of Travel Research, August 2019, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/0047287519868314.
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